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Getting Prepared for America's Byways[reg] Nominations

America's Byways®

Since the last nomination cycle in 2005, there has been a tremendous increase in interest in America's Byways® on the part of the media, and domestic and international travelers. The America's Byways® brand represents the collection of distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. These byways are significant because of their commitment to preserve, protect and promote their intrinsic qualities. Intrinsic qualities are defined as "scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, or natural features that are considered representative, unique, irreplaceable, or distinctly characteristic of an area."

There are many benefits in designation as one of America's Byways®, both in enhancing communities and improving local economies. The recognition of the importance of a byway's intrinsic qualities by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation can lend support to protect and preserve a byway's resources. In addition, the America's Byways® collection is marketed to national and international travelers, and use of the brand and logo can enhance the marketability of a byway. Recognition can also serve to strengthen community pride, involvement, and support of a byway.

Designation as one of America's Byways® is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is important to maintain the integrity of your byway to enhance the America's Byways® brand. The quality of the information we project to local visitors and potential domestic and international travelers - and the experience we deliver - reflect on the overall success of the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP).

There are currently 126 America's Byways® in 44 States consisting of 27 All-American Roads and 99 National Scenic Byways. All-American Roads are considered "destinations unto themselves," contain features that do not exist elsewhere, and embody two or more intrinsic qualities that are of national significance. National Scenic Byways are roads that possess characteristics of regional significance with at least one intrinsic quality.

If you are planning to nominate your byway for possible designation by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, information you provide will require that you look at your byway through the eyes of the traveler.

The America's Byways® Traveler

The Byways website tells the byways' stories. Byways is the first stop for potential travelers to learn about the great experiences and features your byway offers. It is the National Scenic Byways Program's primary tool for disseminating information about your byway and the America's Byways® collection to consumers.

Travel writers and travel-seekers use the website to make decisions on where to go, and what to see and do. Information provided in your nomination package will be used to develop web content for your byway. Be sure the photos and text you submit for the website represent what a traveler can expect to find if they travel your road. Providing complete and accurate information to the consumer means that your byway has the best chance of attracting travelers and deriving economic benefits from their visits.

According to a 2007 Longwoods International Study, America's Byways® Image and Visitor Profiling, potential byway travelers who use cars, RVs or Motorcycles fit into three main categories: Touring, Outdoor and Special Event. A high percentage of these travelers are interested in shopping along the byways, but many of the Touring segment are interested in historic areas/landmarks, and small towns and villages. The Outdoor segment wants to experience wilderness areas, lakes/rivers, and small towns and villages. Special Event travelers are visiting friends and relatives, enjoy small towns and villages and historic areas. Over 50% of these combined segments are college educated married travelers, and 1/3 of them have children under 18. Both males and females equally enjoy the byways.

Nomination Prep: Getting Organized

Coordination with your State scenic byway agency or Indian tribe is vital, as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation can only consider nominations that are endorsed and determined appropriate by a State or Indian tribe.

One of the first things you need to do in preparing for designation is study the National Scenic Byways Program Interim Policy document, dated May 18, 1995, found on the website for byway practitioners, (program history). This Policy "sets forth the criteria for the designation of roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based on their scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, and/or natural intrinsic qualities." It provides the guidelines for the nomination and designation processes, definitions, requirements, and specific criteria for becoming one of America's Byways®.

As noted in the Interim Policy, one of the first qualifiers in the nomination process is a completed corridor management plan that is prepared in accordance with Paragraph 9 of the Policy. A corridor management plan is a written document that specifies the actions, procedures, controls, operational practices, and administrative strategies to maintain the scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, and natural qualities of the scenic byway.

The decision to nominate your road as an All-American Road or National Scenic Byway is a critical one. The designation criterion is specific:

Designation as a National Scenic Byway means that your road "must significantly meet at least one of the six scenic byways intrinsic qualities," that the "characteristics associated with the intrinsic qualities are those that are distinct and most representative of the region," and the "features contributing to the distinctive characteristics of the corridor's intrinsic quality are recognized throughout the region." Regional significance means "characteristics that are representative of a geographic area encompassing two or more States."

An All-American Road designation requires that "the road or highway must meet the criteria for at least two of the intrinsic qualities; must also be considered a ‘destination unto itself' and "it must provide an exceptional travel experience." In addition, the "characteristics associated with the intrinsic qualities are those which best represent the nation and which may contain one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The significance of the features contributing to the distinctive characteristics of the corridor's intrinsic quality are recognized nationally."

__Once you have reviewed the National Scenic Byways Program Interim Policy document and determined which designation you will prepare for, you must construct a complete and concise nomination package. Your nomination package must meet all requirements found in the Policy.__

You will be asked to identify an intrinsic quality (or qualities) and describe how it (they) applies to your byway and its corridor. The six Intrinsic Qualities include Scenic - a heightened visual experience derived from the view of natural and man made elements; Natural - a visual environment in a relatively undisturbed state; Historic - legacies of the past; Cultural - evidence and expressions of distinct customs or traditions; Archaeological - physical evidence of historic or pre-historic human life or activity; and Recreational - outdoor recreational activities directly associated with and dependent upon natural and cultural elements. Complete definitions of the six Intrinsic Qualities are found in the Policy, section 7,

Planning for the "conservation and enhancement of the byway's intrinsic qualities as well as the promotion of tourism and economic development" must be supported in your nomination document. A "corridor management plan, developed with community involvement, must be prepared for the scenic byway corridor proposed for national designation." Information on the Corridor Management Plan is found in the Policy, section 9,

Identifying distinct traveler experiences along the byway, tying them into your byway's intrinsic qualities, determining how they enhance the visitor's experience, and how they enhance the collection of America's Byways with respect to the diverse regions, landscapes and intrinsic qualities found across our country are essential. In addition, the presence of user facilities, and directional and interpretive signage and materials enhance the visitor experience and should be identified in your nomination document.

Sustainability efforts need to be acknowledged and explained in the nomination document. A commitment to the stewardship of the criteria which supports designation along the byway is central to being a part of the America's Byways® collection. Local residents and visitors need to be assured that the byway quality, resources, and experience are maintained for the future. The corridor management plan must be sustained, and plans on how existing and new development might be accommodated while still preserving the intrinsic qualities of the byway need to be addressed.

Resources to Help You

As FHWA finalizes the structure for the next nomination cycle, we encourage byway practitioners to examine, as we will continue to add information.

Assistance for the nominations process is provided in many ways. Your State or Indian tribe byways coordinator should provide a great deal of direction. The Federal Highway Administration staff, both in your State Division Office and at the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) headquarters in Washington, DC, can also be of assistance. Contact information can be found at: In certain instances, Federal land management agencies can also be a useful source of information.

In addition, educational and training opportunities for byway practitioners, and other information can be found on All three websites - National Scenic Byways Program (for grants, nominations and national marketing); America's Byways (for travelers and media); and (for education and other resources); are part of the National Scenic Byways Program communication efforts to provide you with the best information available about byways.

You may also want to view a list of currently designated All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways, with their dates of designation and the Intrinsic Qualities for which they were designated to get a sense of the current composition of the America's Byways® collection. See


We expect that the next nomination cycle will begin in summer/fall 2008. For those considering submitting a nomination, please make contact with your State or Indian tribe byway coordinator. The byway coordinator will be a valuable resource as you prepare your nomination. If you are in the process of completing your Corridor Management Plan, it must be complete by the nomination submission date.

Updated: 1/31/2017
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